Which vehicle would you regard as the first modern crossover or, to use the American term, Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV)? Automotive historians on both sides of the Atlantic might cite either the 1977 Matra-Simca Rancho or 1979 AMC Eagle, but the former was front-wheel-drive only(1) while the latter, although highly capable with its permanent 4WD, was simply a jacked-up AMC Concord. I think the title should rest with the 1994 Toyota RAV4, a purpose-designed model with front or four-wheel-drive. Honda followed up a year later with the CR-V(2) while Land-Rover entered the fray in 1997 with the Freelander.
The other day when digging back into my Car collection I stumbled or fell or happened across an article by LJK Setright dealing with the Opel Omega B. In that article he chanted the praises of its predecessor, the Omega A. And this is the car we have for you today, photographed in Hamburg in July, as the thermometer managed to Continue reading “I’ll Give Anything to See a Berger’s Clouded Yellow…!”
Editor’s note : This article originally appeared on DTW on Jan 4 2017. In light of yesterday’s piece, it seemed appropriate for it to make a reappearance…
As middle age steals upon me, I find that many things I still view as contemporary are in reality, decades old. Music, fashion, events – cars even. The subject of this photo is a case in point. Old enough to be dismissed as a banger, yet to my addled mind at least, still sufficiently contemporary for this scenario to appear out of the ordinary.
Yet the Opel Astra G was launched as long ago as 1998, marking a shift in style from the more curvaceous F model which preceded it. In retrospect it appeared to be an attempt by Rüsselsheim to Continue reading “Back to Nature”
Every major manufacturer faces the challenge of scheduled replacements for designs that are already incredibly well-suited to their market. One day, Opel had to replace the 1992 Astra F. With a new iteration, the aim is usually to keep all the good bits, strengthen the appeal and do something different that is at least as good, if not better. The risk of getting it wrong, of playing it too safe is balanced by the opposing risk of a design that is too bold.
Remembering GM Europe’s pretty but clawless felines.
Over the past fifty years or so, the B-segment supermini has been a staple of the European automotive landscape, to the extent that it has, so far at least, managed largely to resist the onslaught of the crossover. In the early days, there was some experimentation with the precise mechanical layout, but most automakers quickly settled on what they realised was the optimum in terms of cost and packaging; a transverse four-cylinder engine with an end-on transaxle gearbox and unequal-length driveshafts to the front wheels, MacPherson strut front suspension with a torsion-beam axle at the rear, disc front and drum rear brakes, all wrapped up in a three and/or five-door hatchback body.
Many young people began their driving careers in a supermini, not least because they were so popular with driving schools, then widely available second-hand. They were cheap to buy and, crucially, relatively cheap to insure, even for a novice driver without the benefit of a no-claims discount and with a better than evens chance of having a bump in their first year on the road.
Recognised as perhaps the most significant commercial automotive illustrators of the modern era, Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman made their names from evocative, highly stylised, yet beautifully wrought promotional illustrations for General Motors in the United States, and for the Pontiac marque in particular. But in addition, this gifted duo would also define a mode of expression, one few have equalled without accusation of parody or copy.
Towards the latter portion of their career, with their services no longer required in Detroit, Fitz and Van were commissioned by GM’s European division to Continue reading “Drawn Out”
The evergreen Astra: around these environs, you might be hard pressed to believe that seasons five, six and, to a lesser degree, seven have ceased production at all. Examples of each of these generations still ply their trade, from the local builder’s grubby estate car or faithful family holdall, to the noisome kerbside cruisers beloved of maxed-up youth. These and other variants remain daily sightings, their longevity a credit to the brand.
But wherefore the latest incarnation? Astra achter was revealed to this fair land during the Summer of 2021, becoming available to download (sorry), purchase from November, yet your North Western correspondent has yet to Continue reading “Bold and Pure”
Automotive sightings that leave your author perplexed.
The striking of a recently repaired nearby church clock signalled the end of another tedious morning in the office, and a fine spring day invited me outdoors to take the air. There followed a pleasant stroll, enlivened by some interesting, if conflicting, automotive observations.
Within seconds of leaving my place of work, the first of three wildly different vehicles caused my automotive radar to blip. It was a current (fourth) generation Mazda MX-5. Not a rare sighting by any means, but the unusually scruffy condition of this particular example gave it an aged, neglected and rather morose demeanour. I inferred from its condition that its driver may have travelled great distances with neither the opportunity nor inclination to Continue reading “Three Glasses Half-Full or Half-Empty”
It is only twenty years since the world’s press welcomed the Opel Vectra C. We consider it again today.
The Vectra C made its public debut at the 2002 Geneva Salon. The styling continued the themes of the 1999 Opel Astra G and so managed to form the heart of a range of crisply styled Opels that included the 2003 Meriva (a jewel of a car) and the 2004 Tigra, concluding with the Zafira B of 2005.
It’s very much a car of its time. The Vectra C shares some of the clean surfacing and crisply defined edges that also feature on the admirable 2000 Ford Mondeo, but the closeness of the launches would indicate that this was a coincidence. Continue reading “Their Eyes Met Through Glanmire’s Mist”
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 14 February 2015.
Every time one has a reason to discuss the large cars from the ’70s and ’80s, the large cars that aren’t BMW, Mercedes or Audi, one seems obliged to talk about the status and success of these products in comparative terms. It seems incorrect to speak of the Granada, 604 or Senator without mentioning how they fared relative to the BMW 5 et al. I’ll avoid re-treading all that ground again.
Half a century ago, there was still a place in the European car market for large saloons from mainstream automakers. These typically offered excellent value for money by being more spacious and better equipped than similarly priced cars from what are now referred to as premium marques. BMW and Mercedes-Benz(1) in particular facilitated their would-be competitors by offering entry-level specifications that included all the features and comforts of a mediaeval prison cell. Air-conditioning, alloy wheels and even a radio were all expensive options. What you got was finely engineered, certainly, but there was little or nothing to Continue reading “Excellent, but still not Good Enough”
A look back to Vauxhall’s mid-’70s upmarket ambitions.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 11 November 2017.
As automotive industry analysts ponder the fate of Opel / Vauxhall in the wake of the PSA takeover, one possible future being mapped out involves a shift upmarket. On the face of things, this appears about as likely as PSA getting a sudden rush of blood to the head and starting to take Citroën seriously, but as (im)possible futures go, it may not be entirely unthinkable.
Not everyone in the soothsaying universe seems to agree however, as a report in ANE yesterday suggests. Sanford C. Bernstein’s Max Warburton (We haven’t heard from him for a while.) suggesting PSA should “Dump the Vauxhall brand,” before going on to say, “Even the most jingoistic Brexiteers would rather buy a German car. There’s no room for a one-market brand in 2017.”
But leaving aside Warburton’s tough love analysis, can Vauxhall (a) survive, and (b) prosper in today’s increasingly febrile landscape? Taking matters further, could the Griffin (c) ever contemplate a move upmarket, given their current situation? While we ponder this, let us just for a moment Continue reading “A Luton Brougham”
Even I have come to accept that sports car marques can barely survive, and certainly not thrive, without having an SUV or crossover in their portfolio. Indeed, it seems that even developing a saloon car is not worth the R&D these days, given the news that Mazda will not be replacing the Mazda6, although its new FR platform, RWD, straight-sixes and all, looks tailor made for that job.
US multinational corporations are often caricatured as having a heavy-handed We Know Best approach to managing their overseas businesses. In the automotive industry, however, the opposite appears to have been the case, at least historically. Over the course of the twentieth century, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all built up substantial European operations, either through acquisition or organic growth. Not only did these corporations allow their European businesses to operate with a high degree of autonomy from Detroit, they were also markedly reluctant to Continue reading “Keeping Up Appearances”
The Ascona C (1980-1988) cast a sizeable shadow over Opel. Is this the car that created the persistent impression of dullness that tarnishes the Opel badge?
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on DTW on 27 February 2014.
Today’s inspiration is an Opel Ascona two-door saloon, spotted in the north of Aarhus. The recent resurgence (maybe that’s only in my own mind) of Opel has made me reconsider where, precisely, it all went wrong for Adam Opel AG. Lying on my psychiatrist’s couch, I turned over my impressions and images of Opel.
Under the rubble and tattered shreds of half-memories, I found this car. The Ascona is the car that, more than any other Opel product, shaped my attitude to the firm as a maker of vehicles soaked in mediocrity. That, and perhaps the Opel Omega A (1986-1993) which in the land of my youth was sold in fade-prone red with spartan grey cloth upholstery. The Ascona seemed only to come in beige with faded grey plastic trim. Continue reading “Long Shadows of the Past”
The Opel Kadett B was resolutely unexceptional, except in one respect.
The development of flexible modular platforms and standardised component sets has enabled automakers to spin off a wide variety of models from the same basic architecture. This allows them economically to target market niches where projected sales would make unique stand-alone models entirely unviable. For example, the Cupra Formentor would probably not have been signed off for production if it were not for the existence of volume sellers such as the Škoda Karoq, with which it shares a great deal under the skin.
In similar vein, Opel / Vauxhall’s Stellantis-era models are based on existing Peugeot / Citroën architectures, which has allowed them to be developed for production in a remarkably short time. Whether this widespread commonality is conducive to providing genuine choice for drivers is a moot point, but it is certainly here to stay and is likely to Continue reading “Spice of Life”
For reasons that will be obvious to all, Driven to Write’s generous travel and entertainment budget has been conspicuously underspent over the past two years. Fearing that the suits on the sixteenth floor of DTW Towers might repurpose it for even more lavish fixtures and fittings to garnish their executive office suites, or that a certain DTW colleague(1) might run amok restocking the sherry cellar, I managed to persuade our esteemed editor to sign off(2) on an overseas assignment involving an extended road test of an as yet unspecified rental car.
We recall Opel / Vauxhall’s first large MPV, once branded the worst car in Britain.
In the automotive world, truly innovative design concepts do not come along that often, but 1984(1) saw the arrival of one such design in the US. The minivan was capacious and versatile, and offered an alternative to the large station wagons that had long been a fixture in the lives of suburban American families.
European manufacturers looked on with interest, but a degree of ambivalence, as the minivan grew rapidly in popularity in the US. Coincidentally, Renault had also introduced a similarly sized monobox vehicle in 1984, the Espace, but this was not initially considered to be a mainstream model. It was produced by Matra in small quantities as the potential market for such a vehicle was untested. Continue reading “Missing the Marque: Opel / Vauxhall Sintra”
1984: On the world stage, Ronald Reagan is re-elected as US President, whereas in India, Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi is assassinated. Apple present their first Macintosh computer, Band Aid has the UK’s Christmas No 1, while a car designed in Germany goes on to Continue reading “Compact Class”
We recall three vehicles from different European manufacturers, each trying to offer a new twist on the large executive/family car formula, but all failing comprehensively to break the stranglehold of the status quo.
It is the Holy Grail for automakers: coming up with a design that defines a whole new automotive genre. You reap the rich rewards of first-mover advantage while your rivals struggle to catch up. Sticking your corporate head above the parapet of automotive convention is not without risks, however. For every Nissan Qashqai there is a Suzuki X90, selling in tiny numbers before being canned, then hanging around like a bad smell to remind the public how foolish you were.
Choice, the holy grail of sales. Only sometimes too much is just that and those sales either fail to materialise or the product simply confuses potential purchasers. The story of the Vauxhall/ Opel ADAM bears witness to this.
In the early part of the twenty first century, the small urbane hatchback had quite the following, dominated by the Anglo-German MINI and Italy’s Fiat 500. Opel believed an opening in this hegemony could be prized, not only to take sales but also to revolutionise modes of customisation – targeting an increasingly younger (or maybe younger at heart) audience, employing capital letters to draw even more attention.
GM Europe had a reputation for building solid, reliable but resolutely uncharismatic cars. In an attempt to shake off its fusty image, the company turned to Lotus.
The 2000 Opel Speedster and Vauxhall VX220 siblings owe their existence at least in part to one of the many financial crises that have regularly threatened to engulf Lotus Cars over the course of its lifetime. General Motors had owned Lotus outright from October 1986 to August 1993. It had inherited the front-engined Excel 2+2 and mid-engined Esprit, but recognised that both these ageing designs, while selling steadily in small numbers, had limited potential for growth. Instead, it decided to Continue reading “Surrogate Twins”
Once ubiquitous on our roads, the 1979 Kadett D / Astra Mk1, GM Europe’s first front-wheel-drive car, is long forgotten and sadly overlooked, even here at DTW. Belatedly, we celebrate its 40th birthday.
There was considerable ballyhoo when Ford unveiled its first FWD Escort in September 1980. Few now remember that Opel actually beat Ford by a whole year in the switch to FWD for its C-Segment stalwart, the Kadett. Moreover, the Kadett D became the Vauxhall Astra in March 1980, replacing the geriatric Viva.
It was not the first badge-engineered Vauxhall with no sheet-metal differences to its Opel sibling. That dubious honour goes to the 1978 Royale saloon and coupé, better known as the Opel Senator and Monza. That said, the Astra Mk1 did mark the end of Vauxhall’s design and engineering independence from its German cousin. In future all GM Europe siblings would Continue reading “When Good Enough Just Wasn’t Enough”
The 1977 Opel Rekord E was a spacious, comfortable and practical car. It was also somewhat plain and austere looking. A well-judged facelift changed it for the better.
The 1971 Opel Rekord D was a finely wrought and handsome design. Penned by Chuck Jordan, a GM ‘lifer’ and Opel’s Head of Design, it successfully melded GM’s transatlantic design influences with a clean, almost ascetic European reserve. The beauty was in its smooth, unadorned flanks, elegantly flared elliptical wheel arches, neatly integrated light clusters front and rear, and a total lack of superfluous ornamentation.
By comparison, its Vauxhall Victor FE cousin, released just three months later and sharing its platform and other components, was somewhat heavy-handed and certainly more brash and mid-Atlantic looking. This was tacitly acknowledged by Vauxhall in its advertising, where the FE was nicknamed ‘The Transcontinental’.Continue reading “Under the Knife – One for the Record Books”
Despite life returning to a semblance of normality around these parts over recent months, the sighting of 2020-registered cars remain something of a novelty. Of course cars have been registered – some having even been sold – but in a country where new car sales had already been in state of contraction before the pandemic swept all before it, the current situation facing the Irish retail sales trade must be sobering indeed.
One of the more superficial downsides to this is that sightings of new models, while normally a relatively frequent prospect, have been sporadic at best. Amongst the more recent arrivals to these shores is Opel’s current generation Corsa (none of your Vauxhalls in these parts), but to be honest, and in contrast to the (closely-related) Peugeot 208 which preceded it to market, it has been a comparatively rare sight.
Although hardly breaking news, the latest Opel Corsa has arrived in the showrooms and examples are arriving on my street. I saw one. Is it really a Corsa at all, I asked myself.
If we get in our time-machine and spin and spiral back to 1982 we would be confronted by the first Corsa which Opel sold until 1993 (hard to believe). Looking at the bold, boxy 1982 shape with its flared wheel-arches and the 2019 version , one could argue that the new PSA Corsa represents a mere return to form. You could also argue that PSA merely wanted to get Opel’s designers to Continue reading “Did You Ever Wonder About The Stefaneschi Triptych?”
Today, we venture outdoors, virtually speaking, to take the air in Ascona.
It’s probably fair to say that for most of us, the notion of escape is currently a seductive one – particularly to somewhere sparsely populated, picturesque and relatively pristine. Alpine vistas loom large in the imagination, perhaps somewhere akin to the attractive Swiss resort of Ascona, as pictured above.
When DTW was in its first flush and Mr. Kearne’s dipsomaniacal tendencies hadn’t drained the coffers entirely, Places formed one of our monthly themes, and amid the varied offerings from DTW’s writers that month, we considered Ascona and its (probably tenuous) relationship to the Opel saloon model series of the same name. Continue reading “A Sense of Place”
A random glance at a Mazda Demio made me think again about grilles and the way designers deal with that hole in the front of the car.
The subject unfolds as a matter of design semantics. That means more or less we are concerned with the meaning of the air intake and its expression. This Demio (above) is a bit fancier than the one I saw in my district but it is geometrically the same. The approach was to use an “egg-box” in-fill and to use a U-shaped plastic trim piece to enable them to Continue reading “All the Ways We Sang, All the Songs We Went”
Ignoring provisos about spin cycles, we report on some news.
Despite the question marks which remain poised above Groupe PSA’s revival under Carlos Tavares, one cannot deny that the French carmaking giant seems to be playing something of a blinder at present. Last week, following leaked photos which surfaced online, Opel released official images and some details of the forthcoming Corsa B-segment model, due to
go on sale later in the year. Continue reading “Better By FAAR”
We’re back at the anniversary game again for this Saturday morning. Is it really forty years since the Opel Kapitan, Admiral and Diplomat cars first appeared (in their “B” incarnations)? No, it´s fifty.
I must confess that this anniversary did not leap into my conciousness unaided. The people at Oldtimer Markt did the classic-car world the service of putting the 1969 K-A-D cars on the front cover of the current edition of magazine. I am sure you all knew the cars were from around the late 60s. But did you know they they staggered on until 1977? That was the same year you could buy a Citroen CX, a Ford Grannie Mk 1, a Peugeot 604, a Lancia Gamma, Rover SD1 (if you were a sucker for pain) or a Mercedes W-123. Only an actual Cadillac could Continue reading “Just Like The December Coronation”
Renowned motoring writer Archie Vicar takes a short look at Opel’s new entrant in the small family car market and wonders whether it will affect prospects of Vauxhall’s eerily similar Astra.
This article first appeared in Modern Motorism Magazine, December 3 1979. Due to the poor quality of the the copied images, stock pictures have been used. The original photos were by Douglas Lan-Dwinderere (sic).
From time to time, DTW fulfills its duty as the automotive website of record. That means occasionally running an item that, on the face of it, may not set so many pulses racing.
However, I would like to nonetheless make a small effort draw your attention to a car which is important because of and despite its ubiquity. It is relatively easy to write about the extreme and the intense. As a result the vast middle ground where life is lived is neglected. I actually once tried to keep a diary of ordinary experiences (I had more time on my hands in 2009) and noted the problem of seeming to lionise the mundane, merely by noting it.
The other day I gently placed a tiny gauntlet at the feet of the readers, a challenge concerning the set of boring parked cars. What had they in common, I inquired softly.
I received some jolly interesting replies ranging from observations about their grilles to their general banality. There was also a good guess about engine displacements. Alas, despite their ingenuity and their not being 100% wrong, none of the replies were precisely, exactly and perfectly what I was looking for. So, in order to lower people’s tension levels I will Continue reading “If Only Hope and Despair Did Not Live Side By Side”
An Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon, Cadillac Eldorado, a 1991 Buick Roadmaster, a Chevrolet Nova, some Mustangs, an El Camino. Those were a few of the older cars I saw on a recent trip to Sweden. Most exciting was this Opel Ascona 1.6 C automatic (1981-1984)…
1.4 million Opel Rekord E models sold, dear readers. This one is still running though maybe not for so much longer.
Nothing new under the sun, is there? When the current generation of Opel Insignia appeared, it upset me that there was a false pane in the side-glass. Since then I noticed the previous Mazda6 came very close to the same supposed sin. If we go back to 1977 we find the Rekord D1 where the last element of the apparent DLW is a black panel or fake pane.
By way of advertising its continued health and vitality – or even its renewed health and vitality – Opel showed off its GT X Experimental the other day.
It’s intended as a design for an electric car and that’s going to be Opel’s engineering task in future.
Nobody hates television and talking-head You Tube rubbish more than this correspondent. Despite my loathing of the glue tube, I have to say that a little documentary there showed what is not so clear in the static images which accompanied other articles about the GT X. After seeing the little video item I decided I absolutely had to Continue reading “Can The Ghost Still Remember Me?”
The 1987 ECOTY winner was something of a DTW stalwart. Even more so however was the fifth placed entrant, one championed by longtime panellist and judge, L.J.K. Setright.
Since its inception in 1964, the European Car of the Year has been an annual award, adjudicated by a panel of leading European motoring journalists. Its stated aim has been to acclaim the most outstanding new car to go on sale within the 12 months preceding the adjudication.
The ECOTY jury currently consists of 60 members, representing 23 European countries. National representation is based on the size and significance of the country’s car market. France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain each Continue reading “Jury-Rigged?”
2019 might seem so very far away now. Who knows what the world will be like then. One thing we do know now is that Ford won’t be present at the 2019 Geneva motor show.
“Ford said the decision was made because the show’s timing didn’t fit its launch schedule and therefore wouldn’t represent good value,” wrote Automotive News Europe. Not launching enough cars, then Ford, eh? Furthermore, we need double quote marks for this next bit: “‘It costs a sizeable amount of money,’ a Ford of Europe spokesman said. ‘If you’re not going make a return on the investment in terms of media attention or people on the stand, why do it?’”.
Sizeable is relative. It costs lots of money in relation to my annual salary, yes, but a few million euros for some wooden stands and pretty ladies in Lycra is a rounding error in Ford’s turn-over, no?
This is a short post for the early morning. Another longer one will be along shortly.
The image is the front cover of Car magazine from June 1978. I often wonder about that time, or more precisely, 1979. Prompting this is the image of the Senator and the assumptions built into Car’s headline. I’d really like to Continue reading “Hug Tight Your Futile Success”
An Easter treat. Just as we were discussing great European cars, one of them parked in my neighbourhood. It’s an Opel Kadett D: a two-door fastback.
The photo quality leaves lots to be desired. This is where I would need the skills and photographic equipment of Helmut Newton to do justice to the atmospherics. Instead I have a bad camera and limited skills in photo editing. It has been a long time since I saw one of these. As ever, that means a chance to Continue reading “A Photoseries For Sunday: 1979 Opel Kadett”
This is a small gloss on a news item from ANE about the future of Opel’s Ruesselsheim engineering facility.
Does it have much of a future? ANE reported this recently: “One decision that Tavares has put off for now is what to do with thousands of engineers at Opel’s technical center in Ruesselsheim, Germany. They will be part of a “center for engineering excellence” for self-driving cars and electrification, he said, as well as for a planned re-entry to the North American market.” I have mused about this before.
Today’s car can claim to be special by dint of its rarity. GM never sold the G6 in Europe and so this vehicle must be one of a very small handful of examples on this side of Atlantic. In Denmark it has no peers**.
Three hypotheses: it came from the US as a by-product of work secondment from the US to Denmark (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Carol”). Two, it is a very specific and personal import for someone who just happened to really like the G6 (“There is nothing like this car, I must have it”). Three: it came to Denmark via a US soldier stationed in Germany (“We have to bring the Pontiac, Nick.”). A quick call might answer that and maybe I’ll find out.
What are we to make of the news that Opel will not be exhibiting at the Geneva Salon in March? The announcement came on 16 January, just over six weeks before the show opens to the world’s media.
The official justification from new owners Groupe PSA is that “If there is no new product, then the brands won’t be there”. The under-performing PSA premium brand DS will also not be represented at Palexpo; that’s a distraction I’ll not pursue further.
The corporate excuse is unconvincing. The Grandland X has only recently gone on sale, likewise the Insignia GSi, drearily named but interestingly specified.
Scanning through the ANE website I noticed what I thought was a case of mistaken identity.
The title of an article was about the incoming Audi A7, but, in my haste, my brain registered that the accompanying photo was of a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport. Closer inspection revealed that my mind was playing tricks on me, but looking at photos of each car from the front three quarters made me feel better that it was a (fairly) easy mistake to make.